16.408 a slippery slope

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Jan 11 2003 - 04:06:39 EST

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 408.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2003 08:41:03 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: sic transit gloria verborum

      From the Prologue to Douglas Hofstadter, Fluid Concepts and Creative
    Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought (New
    York: Basic Books, 1995), p. 1:

    'A word on the term "artificial intelligence"... In the 1970's, I
    enthusiastically embraced this provocative phrase (or its acronym, "AI") as
    a good way of describing my field of research and my own goals. For me and
    probably for a good many other people, the term conjured up an exciting
    image -- that of questing after the deepest secrets of the human mind and
    expressing them as pure, abstract patterns. In the early 1980's, however,
    that term, as words are wont to do, gradually started changing
    connotations, and began to exude the flavor of commercial applications and
    expert systems, as opposed to basic scientific research about the nature of
    thinking and being conscious. Then, even worse, it slid down the slope that
    ends up in meaningless buzzwords and empty hype. As a result I came to feel
    much less comfortable saying or writing "AI". Luckily, a new term was just
    then coming into currency "cognitive science" and I started to favor that
    way of describing my research interests, since it clearly stresses the idea
    of fidelity to what actually goes on in the human mind/brain, as well as
    the pure-science nature of the endeavor. Nowadays, I seldom call myself an
    "artificial-intelligence researcher" any more, choosing instead to say that
    I am a cognitive scientist....'

    It isn't as if Hofstadter has not enjoyed some benefits of the power coming
    from the roaring commercial engines, so one may feel as if it's a bit much
    for him thus to complain, though indirectly. But he does have a point.



    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat Jan 11 2003 - 04:11:34 EST